Student-athletes with disabilities in Illinois will now be able to opt out of gym class, just like their non-disabled student-athlete peers.
Illinois governor Pat Quinn (D) signed a bill Sunday that allows students with disabilities to be excused from physical education classes, so long as they have proof that they participate in organized sports outside of school. This gym class exemption privilege previously existed for student-athletes but did not include students with disabilities, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Open to high school juniors and seniors, the exemption gives student-athletes the option of taking extra classes instead of participating in gym class.
The bill was inspired by Tyler Woodworth, an Illinois high school student with cerebral palsy. Outside of school, Woodworth plays sled hockey, a variation of ice hockey that caters to athletes with disabilities; but he was previously not allowed to opt out of gym class. This posed a problem, as he wanted the opportunity to take a computer design course but had too full of a schedule, reports the Chicago Tribune.
“People with disabilities who participate in adaptive sports should be given the same consideration as all other athletes," said Governor Quinn in a press release. “Now, young athletes like Tyler will be able to have more academic flexibility and focus more of their learning time on classes they need to prepare them for college and a career.”
Woodworth’s father, Adam Woodworth, told CBS Chicago that his son was excited about the new rule.
“Yeah he is very happy and I don’t know if it has all quite sunk in yet but this is something that affects so many people,” Adam Woodworth told the outlet.
The new law went into effect immediately after Quinn’s signing.